If departing Iraq is “cut and run” – the description used by the governments presiding over the Iraq debacle – what are the right words to describe the strategy of staying and continuing to try to democratise that desperate, ravaged, invaded country? “Stay and slaughter”?

The latest report that the death toll since the US-led invasion has reached 655,000 — one in 40 of the entire population – is a devastating assessment. Released today by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the research suggests that the number of deaths is more than ten times higher than any previous estimate. It claims that the Coalition forces were responsible for almost a third of these deaths.

“I don’t consider it a credible report,” President Bush told reporters on hearing about the research. “It’s not plausible”, concurred John Howard this morning.

The precise numbers in the report may or may not be “credible” or “plausible”. But neither is the Coalition’s continued presence in Iraq.

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